Food, Inc (PG)

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The Independent Culture

This potent documentary ought to be a public information film, for the warnings it delivers to a benighted nation (America) are becoming increasingly pertinent to our own.

The message will be nothing new to those who have read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma – both writers are featured here – but for most people it will alarm and appal. Robert Kenner's film is a sharp indictment of the American food industry, its processes, its profit-hunting and the abuse of its low-paid workforce. Take the introduction of corn, now so ubiquitous that it's found not just in chicken, cows and fish (!) but in sweets, soft drinks, cheese, orange juice, even batteries. We are eating corn when we don't even know it. In the US it's all controlled by a handful of giant corporations – Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson et al – that have operated without much government control and will send in an army of lawyers at the smallest hint of criticism. (Oprah took them on, and won, but the rest of us can't afford to). The shots of poultry and cattle factories – merciless engines of death – are as horrible as you would imagine, but more poignant is the focus on a Latino family that fill up on McDonald's because they can't afford fresh fruit and veg. The toll of this national diet is evident in the chronic rise of diabetes, E Coli and obesity. It's by no means a stylish documentary, but it lays out the facts clearly and cogently. If you do go to see it – and you should – best to skip the popcorn.

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